Examination of the Environmental Crisis
Chapter 5: Resolving the Tensions- an Exploration of Metaphysical Model Building, Epistemological Methodologies and of Potential Integration and Synergism of Science and Theology
We must now turn to significant new developments in both science and theology that challenge the dysfunctional interpretations of reality that have contributed to the diseased metaphysics of Western society. Symptoms of this illness of bifurcation include the radical separation of subjective and objective reality, materialism, purposelessness, the separation of and absolutization of reason and empiricism from a subjectified and denigrated faith, a belief in the ability of science to provide complete and exhaustive descriptions of reality and finally, that the methods and subject of science are value free. Although these viruses of thought always found hosts in history, it was not until the Enlightenment that they found a welcoming cultural host, and have fully flourished in our modern age dominated by scientific materialism and religious fanaticism. But we must subsequently speak of promise in the healing of bifurcation. This potential facilitation of unity in our macrohistorical vision can be seen through the unfolding of a new and more creative relationship between theology and science. This ultimately calls for new metaphysical visions of God, humanity, the reality in which we dwell, and the means by which we know it.
The potential for unity in that relationship points towards a greater unity in diversity of all disciplines, in which academic investigation no longer is done in isolation, but in consultation with the visions of others. It is not that there is one reality and therefore only one discipline that is suited for knowing it. Nor is it that there are many realities and many appropriate disciplines. Rather there is one reality of infinite depth, dimension and qualities in which the means for knowing it can never be exhausted in unfolding an apprehension of the unity in diversity of those levels of reality.
There is a great variety of important issues that should be discussed. Many will be excluded by virtue of having to focus only on those issues that are most significant towards the discussion of resolving tensions related to those ecological movements discussed in Chapter 3. Also consideration is given to those issues that help lead to the possibility of a theocentric Bahá'í model of ecology which can be considered to possess consistency, integrity and the potential for practical application.
This section will begin by examining the often-unconscious acceptance and creation of foundational structures or metaphysical models within the scientific community. As part of this, assumptions about empiricism, the absolutization of reason and objectivity, positivism, chance as the sole denominator of evolution, and the value-free nature of scientific methodology will be examined along with a brief examination of some of the dysfunctional philosophies that lay behind these unconscious assumptions. The central reason for doing this is that those particular assumptions are then used by the scientific materialists in both private and public discourse to illustrate the radical superiority of science over theology as the only possible enterprise for examining the structure and relationships within reality. They then propose theology as the opposite of science in that it is subjective, non-empirical, irrational, and value laden in methodology; and therefore useless as an enterprise of examination that seeks any true correlation with objective reality.
Next, the principles involved in developing metaphysical models in both science and theology will be discussed, and it will be proposed that these principles are the same and in complete harmony. Throughout the text, an underlying focus on these principles is incorporated in order to introduce at a basic level the possibility that these models can converge and form a synergistic relationship facilitating greater creativity and comprehensive visions of reality for both fields. It is hoped that this discussion will further lay the foundations for a mature ecology: an ecological metaphysic that envisions nature as both physically and spiritually relational in its diversity, with humanity participating in acknowledged dependency upon these relationships, and recognizing that all beings possess an independent intrinsic value.
The facilitation of value through the scientific community
We now examine the assumptions that both the methodology of the scientific community, as well as their object of study, nature, is value free. It is important to expose this 'myth' for a great variety of reasons. For this thesis there are two specific reasons of significance.
Firstly these assumptions predispose society towards an irrational prejudice that science offers an absolute, definitive and exhaustive explanation of nature. Secondly these assumptions prevent the proposal of any intrinsic value within nature. Callicott writes:
The classical attitude that nature is value-neutral remains a virtually unchallenged dogma of the scientific world view. From this perspective, the attribution of intrinsic value to species, as to anything else under the sun, is doomed at the outset to failure.
When one hears the term "scientific community" it is usual to forget that the "community" has a significant role in the development of value. Towards appreciating the value-laden nature of the scientific methodology, it is important to understand this function of "community" for science.
First, a challenge is issued to the popular view that the scientific community represents a completely objective 'institution' using infallible instruments of empirical experimentation and inerrant reason. The motto of the Royal English Society Nullius in Verba (or "Nothing on authority") facilitates the association that scientists are highly individualistic, confined to their laboratories to avoid external interference in their experiments. Also associated is the view that discoveries are driven by the inherent nature of the scientist uncovering the layers of reality purely arising through objective observation of a given subject. However, the function of "community" both for religion and science determines value in a variety of very pervasive ways.
Michael Polanyi has illustrated that the scientific community employs recourse to a longstanding scientific tradition. For example, in the submission of certain papers to scientific journals, their acceptance or rejection is based upon a community experienced expectation of what is significant and what is not. A systematic charter defining boundaries does not guide these expectations, but rather an unspoken set of 'traditional' values. These 'scientific' values represent an apriori acceptance of a metaphysical model of reality. This model itself has developed through collective unconscious assumptions and it is not directly subject to scrutiny in these same scientific journals. The implicit materialist metaphysics in which chance is absolutized as the governing function of evolutionary biology is one example that will be discussed later.
The choice of what patterns of 'facts' are to be considered significant, to the very choice of the topic of research is largely influenced by the current dialogues within the scientific community. In this century external political and economic agendas play no small part in this process. The funding of public scientific research is almost always linked to specific purposes that serve items of governments agenda. In this century, even the focus of the genius of Albert Einstein was significantly determined by the government concern to develop weapons of war. Perhaps the greatest scientific drama was enacted with humanity walking upon the moon, yet even this noble scientific victory was only possible and driven by the immense political agenda of the cold war. Since the diffusion of those government agenda and the end of the "space race" imperative, the focus on space exploration research has greatly diminished in proportion to the funding. The current attempts to revitalize the MIR station is due to corporate desires to gain profit by catering to the smallest percentage of humanity, the elite rich.
The general public misconception is that the discoveries of science that advance Western civilization are a natural by-product of the scientific process. However, these days, private corporate funding represents the greatest source of scientific funding, and is totally motivated by profit. So only those areas of research that are seen to directly contribute to practical applications of particular technology that will benefit the shareholders are funded. The fact is, that medical miracles and domestic technologies that ease the burdens of every day life are not a function of an inherent principle of science, but rather a coincidental association with the profit motive of the corporate element. Additionally, the corporate element introduces an even greater division in the synergistic consultative process of the scientific community, as each team races to its theory to the production line first in order to win the victory of profit for its sponsoring company. In this environment, little genuine sharing of unique ideas, at least prior to 'production', is facilitated.
If all nations through an act of consultative will determined to finance the facilitation of peace, and the abolition of the suffering of the masses of the disadvantaged minorities as the goal of the scientific community, rather than what it is, war and profit, a completely different pattern of research would no doubt occur.
Most universities are turning to corporate sponsorship for funding, so particularly the post-graduate education of scientists is now largely determined by these value-laden contexts. A deep appreciation of the history of scientific philosophy is not within the parameters of these concerns and so the scientist graduates often without any understanding of the important wider historical, philosophical or interdisciplinary issues involved with their discipline. There are certainly exceptions to this, such as international collaborations of scientists that are largely free of profit motivation. But even the goals of CERN have to be agreed upon by the community of governments funding the projects and share in the profits of any 'spin-off' technologies.
The rational investigation of the scientist as an act of faith or personal commitment in relationship with the perception of objects:
Lesslie Newbigin quotes and then comments on the first stage of Bertrand Russell's definition of scientific method. While it gives the appearance of complete objectivity, certain qualifications challenge this.
In arriving at a scientific law there are three main stages: the first consists of observing the significant facts...Out of the billions of pieces of data available, how does one determine what the significant facts are? This introduces an element of personal judgement.
Einstein has said,
The supreme task of the physicist is the search for those highly universal laws from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path leading to these laws. They are only to be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love.
This concept of intellectual love may be more widely accepted in physics, where beauty and harmony sometimes become the criteria of a model because the invisible nature of the reality they study sometimes allows no direct investigation. Concerning the theory of inflation applied to the earliest moments of the big bang, Astrophysicist Owen Gingerich writes:
It would derail us to consider its technical aspects or some of its fascinating ramifications, such as the fact that this theory can't be empirically demonstrated and simply must be believed because of its beauty.
In biology, a scientist might be less likely to accept that this is a defining characteristic of scientific investigation partly because of biological reductionist tendencies. Francis Frick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA wrote:
The ultimate aim of the modern movement in biology is in fact to explain all biology in terms of physics and chemistry.
There is more likely to be an assumption that the biologist is studying something which is completely objective and subject to empirical demonstration so therefore in no need of subjective elements such as "intellectual love" or faith.
However if we look at Darwin, the evolutionary biologist par excellance we find an implicit statement similar to Einstein's proposal of the need for "intellectual love" as a criteria for filtering what data is significant. Darwin writes:
I mean by nature, only the aggregate action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequences of events as ascertained by us.
This alludes to the subjective nature of determining which sequences of events should be correlated, as the decision of ascertaining what events are significant will represent a matter of personal choice and faith in its intelligibility. Interestingly, Darwin also alludes to an associated criterion that most biologists would be surprised to see. In On The Origin of Species, Darwin indicates that his theory of natural selection represents a rational theory because: "To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator,... and he goes on to indicate his attraction to the "grandeur" that the "powers" of nature have been "originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one." And his further attraction to the beauty and wonder of the diversity that has subsequently evolved.
An atheistic biologist might discount this as a moment of weakness in Darwin, or an example of irrelevant subjective faith. For many great discoveries have been made by scientists who had no faith in God's existence, or felt compelled by any form of "intellectual love". Yet it may be argued that Einstein, Gingerich and Darwin's statements are merely representative of conscious awareness of a broader context that is usually represented as an unconscious process: the basic assumption that reality is intelligible and coherent. And more importantly that the human mind is somehow capable of recognizing by attraction those principles which are "inherent" in physical reality. There is actually little effective difference between this and the more explicit statement that our love of the ordering principles "impressed on matter", and reflective of the intelligibility of the Mind of God, represent our ability for intuition of determining significant patterns in scientific investigation.
The hesitancy of the materialist in accepting that intellectual attraction, or perhaps even more minimally, an aspect of attraction, recognition, is related to a form of love or faith rests in an inherited, unconscious, dualistic prejudice of the scientific community.
This arises from the belief in the need to separate reason and faith, cognition and emotion based both on the inherited interpretations of a separation of reason and emotion in both the Cartesian and Kantian frameworks. More importantly, this prejudice arises by association of these dualistic frameworks with the modern scientific assumptions of the criteria of empiricism. To quote Val Plumwood once again,
The Kantian account of ethical universalisation as derived from reason alone disguises and denies the dependency of ethical judgement on empathic elements.
This same separation of reason and emotion is a denial of the dependency of intellectual investigation and attraction to universal principles upon the combination of both reason and emotion.
When this unconscious prejudice is recognized and remedied, the great divide, between rational investigation of an intelligible order and the attraction by intellectual love to the qualities of the mind of God which are universally expressed in reality, attains a much more coherent relationship.
The concept of "intellectual love" also represents a framework in which the divide between rationalism and empiricism, and object and subject find greater unity in relationship. In this case "rationalism" represents the belief in the independent ability of reason to construct reality based on the archetypal forms residing intrinsically in the mind. While "empiricism" as the belief that the investigation of reality is dependent upon the accumulative experience of the perception of external forms.
Considering the relational requirements of "intellectual love", forms are not developed in the mind solely by the impression of the external world nor does the external world only become "real" when our mind extends its categories upon it. There is a mutual relationship of the internal mind being attracted to the external Mind as found in nature. The principles of value are intrinsic to both our own minds and the intelligibility of nature, the "external" Mind. There are certainly a number of qualifications necessary to these statements and this concept will be more fully explored when attention is given to the theocentric aspects of the Bahá'í model. But the main point here is that there is intrinsic internal value (often called subjective) and external intrinsic value (often called objective) that find a participatory relationship through love. In a theocentric model in which intellectual love intuitively guides the person towards more authentic visions of reality, the love represents a meeting point of relationality which is neither an extension of self, or an impression by the other. Value finds a unique expression through the relationship between the two participants. This uniquely created value is neither the subjective externalization of internal value nor the internalization of objective external value, but is created somewhere in between.
Michael Polyani has provided a valuable analysis that further illuminates the unity between the "internal" rational process and the manner in which we "indwell" the "external" perceptive tools we use to negotiate reality. In his model the boundary between inner processes of reason and external sense perception is shifted if not erased. The focus shifts from determining the boundary to realizing the relationality of our rational investigation with the external world. This, once again, is possible because of the way in which our rational faculty almost physically "indwells" those external tools of perception. To illustrate, Polyani uses the case of the blind man who learns to indwell his walking stick, and it for all intensive purposes, becomes an extension of his mind as a new perceptual organ. There is obvious room for perceptual error, but the blind man develops a personal faith in the perceptual capacity of his walking stick, until he indwells it as an extension of himself. Scientific investigation is much the same, in that the scientist experiences an act of personal commitment when he engages in the relationality of indwelling his tools of perception. Once again the great divide between subject and object is seen as an illusion of western thought. Both of these concepts, that of "intellectual love," of knowledge as a relational state of affinity and attraction between two participants, and the concept of "indwelling," in which the tools we use to perceive these relationships involves an act of personal faith and relationship, conclusively illustrate the value laden nature of determining "facts" through the observation of objects.
For Bahá'ís this ability of the human mind to indwell relationally tools of perception is an amazing and natural capacity of the soul. As should already be clear, the interpretations used so far indicate that while there may be a separation of objects, there is a highly significant relationality between them. In this regard, the body is the perceptive organ which the soul "indwells." But the nature of the soul, being what it is, has a natural capacity to indwell "perceptual organs" other than the biological limitation of the human body. While the function of the rational faculty of the soul, the mind, is highly related, but not dependent upon the biological functions of the brain, it is through association of the perceptual tools that we choose that our mind can indwell.
The Assumption of the Exhaustive Capacity of Science to Comprehend Reality
Charles Birch touches on some of the essential deficiencies of the modern worldview:
It has tended to see progress in terms of straight lines beaming out into the future, with its ultimate faith in the capacity of science and technology to solve our problems...it is deficient as a total worldview and has left us in a dilemma about ethics and values and purposes. We are now seeing the exhaustion of that sort of modernity.
For Birch, a postmodern worldview implies that:
Progress is seen as a fulfillment of spiritual possibilities.
However, the modern worldview still offers strong resistance to a vision of material and spiritual relationships as being integral to progress, and within science there is often an assumption in the exhaustive capacity of science to offer a complete worldview based on physical "facts" alone.
Positivism, or the belief that knowledge can be based on facts alone or upon regularities among facts, and incorporating a strong reliance on empiricism, finds its first significant proponent in August Comte (1798-1857). It is interesting and significant to note that its original proponent envisaged it as a means for creating a new religion. For Comte, positivism represented a final stage in the evolution of epistemology. The first stage represented theology and the proposition of causes to supernatural principles. The second stage is of metaphysics, in which there is a shift in category description of causes but not representative of any significant difference in explanation. The final stage is that of positivism upon which knowledge is based on facts alone. Comte actually developed his own positivist "church", in which scientific elite (the positivistic "Saints") would eventually reorganize society in a rational and peaceful manner.
While Comte's idea of founding a quasi-religious movement on these ideas never gained substantial social momentum, it did find a reemergence in the scientific philosophy of logical positivism.
It's manifestation in the philosophy of science experienced its heyday with the ideas of a group called the "Vienna Circle," most influential from the 1920's to the 1940's. Although there were differences of opinion among the group's members, it represented a reinterpretation of aspects of David Hume's philosophy and the forms of symbolic logic found in Bertrand Russell. From this context arose the assumption of the separation of value and fact. There was a strong emphasis on empiricism and a fundamental theme throughout that belief must be justified on the basis of experience. Another proponent of such positivism was Rudolph Carnap who proposed that the only sources of knowledge are perception by the senses and analytical principles of logic. More importantly, he proposed that only statements that can be verified could be considered to be truthful. This is commonly referred to as the "verification principle."
Although logical positivism was popular and explicitly influential in the development of scientific philosophy in the first half of this century, it was later shown to have too many internal inconsistencies to warrant further endorsement as an academically successful model in the field of scientific philosophy. The primary inconsistency lay with the verification principle and the realization that the interpretative process that occurs between the object and the perceiver results in a theory-laden process. As well it was clear that positivism assumed the complete deficiency of metaphysics, yet it assumed a materialist metaphysics itself.
It is proposed that Comte's underlying goal of replacing the functions of traditional religion with a quasi-religious positivistic philosophy became more successful than perhaps even Comte dreamed; although perhaps on a less conscious level, this has occurred through its expression in the modern scientific community. This is particularly the case in the more reductionist biological sciences that have a greater reliance on empirical methodology and the reliance on "facts", coinciding with a greater natural aversion to admitting metaphysical considerations then say physics. However, even in physics we find such elements of quasi-religious positivistic philosophy.
Carl Sagan's popular television series embodies this unlimited confidence in scientific methodology to offer exhaustive statements about reality.
The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.
Regarding the context of this Ian Barbour writes:
Sitting at the console from which he shows us the wonders of the universe, he is a new kind of high priest, not only revealing the mysteries to us but telling us how we should live. We can indeed admire Sagan's great ethical sensitivity, and his deep concern for nuclear survival and environmental preservation. But perhaps we should question his unlimited confidence in the scientific method, on which he says we should rely on to bring in the age of peace and justice.
Equally confident in the comprehensive ability of scientific methodology to explain everything about everything is the scientific materialist Jacques Monod. An evolutionary biologist, he has exclusively focused on the role of pure chance in his interpretation of Darwin.
Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe's unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance.
While representative of a highly reductionist approach to knowledge, Monod, at the same time represents a faith in the comprehensive explanatory ability of biology. Chance is the source of every development in the universe and, for Monod, this
is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one compatible with observed and tested fact.
Yet even in Monod the tensions between purpose and chance are still present as can be seen firstly in his metaphysical model of the universe as a machine. The purposive implications of this model have already been discussed in the previous chapter.
Anything can be reduced to simple, obvious mechanical interactions. The cell is a machine. The animal is a machine. Man is a machine.
Even the belief that a machine lacks purpose can only occur in a highly narrow-minded, reductionist vision in which its various parts are reduced to their most basic principles of function. Any attempt to relate these functions and examine the machine as a whole immediately illustrates the absurdity of postulating pure chance and purposelessness to its function.
Chance has become Monod's "God of the gaps" theory. Biological science is not an appropriate tool for the examination of purpose. So when biology recognizes a tension that can only be resolved by the postulation of purpose, and the acceptance of a broader vision of metaphysics, chance is used as the explanatory principle in order to keep this highly reductionist metaphysics intact. Even the great defender of chance, Monod writes,
It is obviously impossible to imagine an experiment proving the non-existence anywhere in nature of purpose.
Monod's intention is to illustrate that purpose is not an empirically observable phenomenon. So it cannot be proved or disproved, similar to the statements by earlier materialists about God. But remembering the previous concept, "The nature of the object prescribes the method of knowing" and an entirely different conclusion is reached. What Monod is then really saying is "Biology is not an appropriate method of knowing the nature of purpose." Supporting this, Keith Ward writes:
Biology does a magnificent job of analyzing the mechanisms of inheritance and molecular construction. In doing so, it does not need to refer to purpose or value at all. But there is no justification for saying that it eliminates purpose from the world. All we need to resist is the idea that any natural science gives the whole, complete and exhaustive truth about the real world. Biology can show us how the process of evolution works. It cannot, and does not, try to show us what this process is for, or what its purpose is.
Purpose can be known, and in fact is a necessary and logical postulate in a number of other disciplines, such as history. For example, if we want to study the development of the science of biology itself, say during the period of the enlightenment, we have to postulate and attempt to understand the purposes of the various persons who contributed to its development. For biology as a discipline would not be a discipline were it not that it possessed an overall purpose itself. This purpose developed through the conflict and consensus of the intentions and purposes of the individuals who participated in the construction of that discipline. The intentions and purposes of these individuals are causally related to those before them, and theoretically these causes which are characterized by purpose and intent continue to the beginning of humanity's development. The average historian is merely content to trace these causal purposes back to a specific causal purpose (or a set) that he or she will consider most relevant for context for their study. However, the principles of historical methodology imply that if one wanted as comprehensive an understanding as possible, the causal purpose of every individual related to a specific event, traced back to at least the beginning of consciousness would need to be understood. This illustrates that reductionist biology itself ignores the central significance of consciousness, and the purpose and intent generated by it, as a factor of "evolution" in the development of its own discipline.
Ironically, this is equally true for such a significant movement within biology, as the metaphysics of Monod himself. This metaphysics, which represents the assumption of a materialist construction of reality operating by chance alone, can only be comprehensively appreciated by the use of a number of disciplines, including the principles of intention and purpose within historical methodology.
The Limits of Empiricism
There is no doubt that empiricism as that proposed by John Locke, as knowledge based on human experience and sense perception, has a valuable contribution for epistemology. This is particularly as it represents a moderating response to the rationalist assumptions of the sole supremacy of reason as the basis of knowledge that became influential particularly with Descartes. However, empiricism has now gained ascendancy over rationalism in the epistemological aspects of modern scientific materialist metaphysics. So there is a tendency to discount the potential of the inner rational process as possessing any kind of intrinsic ability to recognize intuitively through an empathetic function, similar values in the phenomenal world.
Empiricism has limitations in the associated assumptions of objectivity in its application providing "proof" and conclusive verification of theories. This has already been illustrated through the discussion of Michael Polyani, and the manner in which a personal relationship characterized by faith exists between the empiricist and her subject matter. Karl Popper also was concerned with such assumptions of such an interpretation of 'verification' providing self-evident proof of a theory. He contributed to the scientific understanding of the need to also posit circumstances in which a theory can be proved wrong.
I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as the criterion of demarcation...It must be possible for an empricical system to be refuted by experience.&
Alistair McGrath illustrates the difficulties with relating the "factual observations" and the network of associated hypothesis, with the theories they support (or contradict) as equally illuminated by Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) and Willard Van Orman Quine.
Duhem argues that we do not have access to the full list of hypotheses which underlie our thinking. It might at first seem that we could enumerate all the hypotheses that can be made to account for a phenomenon, and then eliminate all of these hypotheses except one by experimental contradiction. However, according to Duhem, the physicist is simply never going to be in a position to be sure that all the hypotheses have been identified and checked.
While Duhem was particularly thinking of natural science, and specifically physics when he wrote this, Quine re-interpreted his theory and expanded it to apply to the empirical process in general and therefore applicable to all disciplines. His main critique is that experience often has an insignificant influence on our overall metaphysical assumptions. His argument known as the "Duhem-Quine thesis" states that when data is discovered that conflicts with a theory, it is not possible to single out the one statement in the theory responsible for the conflict. Rather than rejecting the theory outright, an internal adjustment to suit the new data is more likely.
Within the discipline of sociology, particularly as applied to knowledge, this theory has contributed to the understanding the significant contribution of cultural values to theory development. This is known as the "underdetermination thesis." According to this sociological interpretation, there are
an indefinite number of theories that are capable of fitting observed facts more or less adequately. The choice of theory can thus be explained on the basis of sociological factors, such as interests. According to this view, experimental evidence plays a considerably smaller role in theory generation and confirmation than might be thought.
Ultimately Duhem and Quine
both affirm that it is not theoretically possible to identify the site of the tension between theory and experience.
It would be a serious mistake to assume that the sociological critique leads to the conclusion that theories or the knowledge of reality those theories allude to within science are totally relatavized as social constructions.
Certainly the thesis of Duhem, Quine and its reinterpretation in sociology is moderated when the principle of intuition is introduced in enabling the selection process of determining significant relationships between conflicting data and statements within theories. No less significant, is the way that individual intuition is often augmented by the community process of intuition gathered through consultation. This occurs as different relationships to the data provide a more complete view to enable this selection process of significant relationships.
As Duhem himself notes, Physicists do seem to achieve success relying on this intuition to choose relevant relationships between data and theoretical considerations.
While the consideration of intuition substatially moderates the Duhem-Quine thesis, it does not detract from the thesis significantly contributing to an appreciation of the limitations of empiricism.
Theories in their ability to describe reality are ultimately dependent upon particular contexts and an isolation of specific relationships. This is illustrated by both Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr:
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Isolated material particles are abstractions.
It is not being suggested that theories have no correlation to reality, but rather that the correlation can only be recognized as a relational condition and not absolute.
The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh ... is that religious truth is not absolute but relative...
Bahá'í's assume the infinite capacity of God includes intelligence as applied to the design and sustenance of an equally infinite creation. Therefore, we can say that science, as a human endeavor to discover principles that offer total and certain statements that explain reality, is always subject to development and change. This leads ultimately to a realization that every theory throughout history and including the current period is insufficient and even immature from the broader perspective. This makes the attempts of modern theology to legitimate itself in relation to these insufficient models a continually dangerous process. Particularly when theology will always provide insufficient models for the very same reasons. Dialogue between science and theology, in humility before God's infinite intelligence, requires us to glory in discovery of God's intelligibility, but to be constantly aware that it is an infinite process that implies our constant insufficiency.
The tension between the inadequacy of the descriptive capacity of finite models of an infinite reality is related to Thomas Kuhn's exploration of the process of paradigm shifts within the scientific community. Kuhn is primarily concerned with the development of science in its epistemic sense or the theoretical and cognitive patterns as seen, for example, in the contents of scientific journals. For Kuhn, the constant investigation of physical reality by the scientific community produces anomolies which do not fit accepted theories. Eventually the burden of these anomolies requires a significant shift in the basic paradigm in order to logically explain them. These ongoing "scientific revolutions" are more common on small scale revisions of sub-theories rather than an entire world-view such as the copernican revolution, however it does still occur on the level of large scale reconstructions of scientific world-views. Some have criticized Kuhn's assumptions of incommensurability between newer and older paradigms, yet Kuhn's model represents a valuable contribution towards understanding the contextual process of scientific discovery. It represents a form of critical realism that has applications to both scientific and theological enquiry.
For this thesis, authentic scientific enterprise is best characterized by "critical realism." That is combining the assumption that entities exist in the world independently of human cognition or perception with an affirmation that the knowledge of such entities is a relational activity on the part of the scientist. This is in contrast to naïve realism that asserts reality can be perceived directly with no moderating considerations of mediation.
With critical realism, truthful observations can be made about reality, however these observations are never total and do not represent absolute correlations between perception and reality. With critical realism, neither the absolute certainty of objective certainty between perception and reality, nor the complete relativazation of the relationship between perception and reality is proposed. Truth is known in particular contexts and specific relationships. It is a mediatory process in which perception is real, but indirect. Analogies and metaphorical models are thus a valuable and necessary endeavor which acknowledge the partiality of their correlation, yet can be seen as necessary in alluding to descriptions of relationships within reality.
Methodological Parallels and Differences Between Theology and Science
We have already discussed a number of methodological issues related to the scientific enterprise and the determination of value. These same methodological principles apply, in varying degrees, to the religious community responsible for facilitating theological metaphysics.
1) Value is facilitated by a community experience.
2) Value is facilitated by the personal faith of the scientist.
3) Value is facilitated by the apriori acceptance of a largely unspoken set of metaphysical principles that form the framework for investigation.
A) The overall metaphysical vision is organic and changes and develops in response to a number of conscious and unconscious realizations about the tensions within finite models attempting to describe an infinite reality.
B) These models do not definitively describe reality with certainty, but can only infer correlations within particular and limited relational contexts.
4) Value is facilitated by a highly relational condition, characterized by elements of "love" between participants.
It has been shown how theological and scientific paradigms, rather than being antithetical, appear to possess similar functions in the construction of value. It has been seen that rather than being value free, the "foundational structures" or underlying metaphsycial assumptions governing scientific methodology are actually value laden. Equally, the epistemic processes of both theology and science involve commitments of faith and conscious or unconscious participation in relationships. Ultimately "discovery" rather than being the result of following mathematically precise procedures, often involves degrees of affinity or a type of "love" between the knower and the known. In this context, reason and faith, logic and love, subjective and objective truth, intertwine in a relationship of knowing.
Chapter 4 illustrated a number of historical roots for the non-essential causes of the tensions in modern ecological philosophy. This chapter has suggested a unity of epistemology and metaphysical model building which introduce more harmonious relations between the elements of tension discussed in Chapter 3. It is also hoped that this chapter has served to demonstrate a number of similarities, particularly in methodology, but also in the focus of examination, between scientific and religious communities; so that both spiritual and material considerations can be equally considered with integrity in any philosophy of ecology.